JFL 42 Jerrod Carmichael Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, September 19
Published Sep 21, 2013Jerrod Carmichael has this deceptively lethargic presence but there's actually a lot going on within his clear-eyed, thoughtful material. "So, this is where Drake is from, that's interesting," he said to acknowledge Toronto. "He's our Martin Luther King, right? I've been calling him that on blogs and no one's disputed it. I think because people who remember Martin Luther King don't check blogs."
On successive nights at the Comedy Bar, Carmichael rocked an Axel Foley moustache, hoodie and jeans, contrived misunderstanding, mischievous glint in his eye, laughing a bit at his own ideas. Maybe it's an unintentional sartorial nod but Carmichael does echo the manic genius of Eddie Murphy and also Dave Chappelle and shifts down several gears to present his own kind of confessional absurdity.
"You know what ruined my rap career? My father just wouldn't leave," Carmichael joked. "I remember turning 15 and was like, 'Dad, look, I'm starting to write these rhymes, maybe you can just get the fuck out.'"
This started a ruminative part of the set where Carmichael acknowledged that he's been having weird thoughts lately. He discussed feeling very patriotic about the U.S., suggesting that Canada just wasn't interesting (aside from Drake) and that the "rest of the world just isn't liveable." It's a loose way for him to get into a slacker-y geo-political discussion.
"You guys realize that, if the tragedy that happened in Boston happened in Afghanistan, they would've finished the race," he said prompting laughs, groans and applause. "You guys understand what I'm saying to you? Like, that would've been the second news story in Afghanistan, right behind who won that marathon."
"I know, I know," he replied to nervous chuckles. "I know, God bless America too."
Carmichael digs into racism in America from wild, comically xenophobic angles, saying he'd rather be a police suspect every day than complete a Masters degree in Syria or any other place really.
"If it weren't for slavery you guys, I would be in Africa right now," he said. "Africa. Are you hearing what I'm saying? They have AIDS there. And not the happy, 'I'm-gonna-buy-the-Dodgers' AIDS, I'm talking the real, scary AIDS. The oldest living man in Nigeria wishes he had Magic Johnson's AIDS."
As he burned through such observations, Carmichael's set felt like a really personal journey — him grappling with the weird things running through his mind and offering real perspective on our collective experience. That's what the best comics do and he's totally in that class right now.